It’s True, I’m Living Out of a Backpack…
By: Jessica Georgia
Ok, so I’m not going to be permanently homeless and living out of a backpack, but for an entire three months this summer, that’s exactly how I’ll be living.
I know what you’re thinking: why the hell are you doing this? The answer is simple. I will be backpacking roughly half of the Appalachian Trail this summer. Here are some quick facts about the Appalachian Trail for those of you who may be wondering what the big deal is:
The A.T. is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, stretching to around 2,180 miles in length. The trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern end at Springer Mountain, Georgia to the northern end at Katahdin, Maine.
Yes, people from all over the world come to hike sections of these incredible United States foothills. I urge everyone to get out of their homes and enjoy even a small section of this beautiful trail.
While, 3 to 6 months of backpacking is definitely not for everyone, I strongly believe that everyone should see some of the breathtaking views on the A.T. at least once in their lifetime. (Pictured below: My daughter admiring the views off a small section of the A.T. in the Fontana Dam area.)
Whenever people hear about my hiking plans, I get the same reactions again and again:
1. Why the hell are you doing this?
2. I wish I could do that!
3. Aren’t you concerned for your safety?
The question I find most interesting is number 2. I wanted to address this one first as I feel so strongly about it. “I wish I could do that.”
I think my response from now on regarding this question will be, “Why can’t you?” Everyone has the same 24 hours during each day. How you use that time is entirely up to you. I have a daughter, I have a husband, I have a dog (an anxiety ridden one at that), I own a business, I have bills to pay, and so forth. In other words, my blood is red just like yours!
Let me stop for a minute…
Please don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way. I do not intend to sound like some jerk off bragging about my accomplishments.
Instead, I am only trying to say that I have the same commitments as the majority of other women my age, and that it was challenging to plan everything out and make sure my commitments were taken care of while I’ll be away (to be honest, I’m still dealing with a few even as I’m writing this).
All I am saying is everything in life will present challenges. It’s up to you to find the solutions to these challenges if something is important to you. This may sound clichéd, but I really don’t give a shit because it’s true.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
If you have a strong desire and passion to accomplish something, I firmly believe you need to jump in and find the way.
Life has no guarantees. Unlike a smartphone that can be returned or upgraded if it breaks or doesn’t work, it’s game over for you if its your time to go.
However, it’s never too late to “upgrade” your life! You have the power to control what you do with your time and no one can ever take that away from you (well, maybe the government can if you’re a hoodlum and get jail time, so don’t do dumb shit!)
What I’m trying to get at is if you have the WILL that badly to do something, just shut up and find the WAY. Even if it takes 5 years to find that way! Living with regret’s will haunt you forever. Stop saying, “I wish I could do that” because the time will never be “just right.”
This leads me to question number 3: “Aren’t you concerned for your safety?”
I am pretty sure that I am reasonably concerned for my well-being every day. If you know me, you also know that I’m a bit of a wise ass. Don’t get offended. Of course I’m concerned for my safety!
Of course I’m a little nervous about sleeping in the middle of the woods filled with bears in nothing but a tent! However, I am also well educated on the layout of the trails and I know the ins and outs of backpacking/hiking etiquette. I am not just entering into the mountains having done zero research and having zero knowledge on the terrain. That would be down right stupid. I do not recommend anyone do that!
But just because I have some concerns (fears), that doesn’t mean they will stop me from doing something I feel passionately about. Your own fears and doubt will kill more dreams then any brown bear ever will.
Yes, I fully understand that I am not Wonder Woman (though, in my own head, I am sometimes seriously convinced that I am). My safety concerns are as follows:
3. Bacteria from drinking water (streams and other natural water sources)
4. Jason (screw those movies and that dude)
But again, I found solutions to each of these problems should they arise and have researched how to minimize my risks before they occur.
As a female, I have the same odds of some psycho jumping me in my neighborhood as I do hiking on the A.T. For me, knowledge is power. It’s empowering, whereas raw fear and concerns without solutions keep you trapped. I take boxing, I know how to shoot a gun, and I like to think I can defend myself pretty well.
The next reality I have to keep in mind is that bears, like any other wildlife for that matter, are more scared of us than we are of them! Let’s be real for a moment. Bears are not going to be waiting on the trailheads to ambush and devour hikers. Again, this is where solutions overcome fear that could otherwise control a decision.
While it is known that bears will sniff out hikers food, to avoid an encounter you just need to educate yourself. Every night, I intend to hang my food supplies from a tree downwind of my campsite. This is the best solution to minimize the chance of an encounter with a bear. I will also carry a whistle. The more noise you make while hiking, the further the wildlife will want to be from said noise.
Then comes number 2: ticks.
Oh, how I dislike these nasty creatures. Bugs in general gross me out, but most of them are nothing compared to ticks. The solution I have found is an antibiotic prescribed by my doctor, which I will be bringing with me on my hike. This way, if I do get the “ring of death” from a tick bite (a sign of the onset of Lyme Disease), I can quickly begin treatment as I get off the trail to seek medical attention.
I am also not a fan of chemical ridden bug sprays, especially when the natural solution of taking a garlic pill daily works just as well. Just be happy you won’t be hiking with me and dealing with my smell!
Since I won’t be able to carry 3 months worth of drinking water, I’ll need to rely on the natural water sources around me, such as springs, lakes, and rivers. The downside is you can obtain some seriously nasty viruses from tainted drinking water. My solution to this was to get an effective, lightweight filtration system (full gear review coming soon here- all gear was provided by www.billsarmynavy.com).
I went with the “Lifestraw” for two main reasons.
1. It cleans my water (duh)
2. For every Lifestraw purchased, the company gives a child in Africa clean drinking water for an entire year
To checkout this amazing company for yourself, visit them here: www.buylifestraw.com
This brings me to my next point: the potential to injure myself…
Let’s be honest, you can get injured pretty easily anywhere you are. A bus can hit me tomorrow (and I know some people would love to watch). The solution to this is to just take it easy during the first week or two out on the trails. I will need to listen to my body, especially since I have knee issues. This was a serious concern of mine at first. But , as I’ve said before, I’m not going to let concerns or fear supersede my desire to have the adventure of a lifetime.
I have been training six days a week to make sure I am in the best shape possible (check out www.fastfitboxing.com, if you need to get in shape, they will gladly kick your ass). In addition to listening to my body, I will wear knee braces to help ward off injuries.
As far as meeting Jason on the trails (or any psycho lunatic, for that matter), I feel like if they are really on that serious of a mission to commit murder, they will find someone to kill (whether it be on a trail or in a town or wherever). It could happen to me regardless if I am on a trail or not. Like I said, I like to think I can defend myself pretty well if it comes down to a physical altercation. This is just another fear that I refuse to let deter me.
And now, I’ve saved the best of the three questions for last: WHY? Why the hell are you doing this?
I can honestly say I don’t have just one reason.
No, I’m not having a midlife crisis (though I may be close as I’ll be turning 30 on the trail).
It’s not for charity (though I would definitely do it again for a good cause and admire anyone doing it for charity).
I am not doing this because I have to. I’m not doing this for bragging rights. (Although, come on, I’m a bad ass you know it!) JUST KIDDING, don’t get your panties in a bunch!
I’m doing this because I love life and I love challenging myself. I’m doing this because I love the mountains and I love traveling. I’m doing this to share my experiences in hopes I can inspire someone else to go experience LIFE! Like with everything else I do, there are so many different reasons for wanting to do this hike.
People always joke with me by calling me a “free spirit” with a “gypsy’s soul”. And there is some truth to that. My family and I have traveled to almost all of the 50 states, as well as a few countries, such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Italy, and others.
I hope this gives you an understanding of my love and passion to see the world. Maybe even to inspire you to go on more adventures of your own. Each and every place we have visited has had an impact on my life and I like to think an impact on my daughter, and husbands lives as well.
You can always replace things like a car, a phone, a house, but you can NEVER replace memories.
The experience of swimming with sharks and rays. My biggest fear at the point had been of sharks, so my solution was to say “fuck it” and swim with them! Made perfect sense to me, LOL!
The smells of the surf in Mexico with that glass like water (Pictured below: My husband snorkeling).
Hiking a mountain, so high up, that you are actually IN THE CLOUDS (My photo from the top)!
Capturing the magic of your daughters first Disney experience (Jade, my daughter, pictured below.)
Trying to explain the incredible music, culture, and history that is found in New Orleans. (Picture: My husband and I on Bourbon St.)
Watching the sun set from another country. (Beaches in D.R.)
Your daughter seeing new sights out of the country…starting to understand that life is FULL of beauty! (Jade in the Bahamas)
Standing on-top of the empire state building in the city that never sleeps, NYC!
Freezing yo ass off!! But it being worth it for the views!
Overlooking the beauty from the top of a lighthouse in Maine.
Words just can’t do justice to these memories and experiences. I could keep adding memories for days!
My point is…our pictures can capture the moments and books can educate us, experiences created by actually DOING something can shape who you are. They can change your life. They can teach you compassion and educate you on the lives of different cultures, as meeting the village families in the Dominican Republic did for me (pictured below).
But until YOU experience something for yourself, you can’t ever fully appreciate or understand it. This is why I choose to live out of a backpack this summer.
I hope you have enjoyed and I would love to hear about your adventures in the comments below!
P.S. I will be updating here regularly from the trail, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are interested in keeping up with me, subscribe in the header above!